You’ve seen enough museum models, illustrations, and CGI predators that you’d likely recognize aTyrannosaurus rexif you saw one. But how can you be sure? Nobody has ever clapped eyes on one in real life, and even the best skeletons are often only 90 percent complete. Specialists called paleoartists do base their re-creations on hard evidence (bones, feathers, and bits of skin) but, just as often, well-informed guesses. We may never know exactly how T. rex and other prehistoric creatures like theMicroraptor guilooked, but here’s how we landed on the current incarnations of these deceased beasts.
The way joints fit together informs a dino’s pose—along with a bit of inspiration from contemporary creatures. Without cartilage and other connective tissues, experts map extinct skeletons against how birds and reptiles stand and walk. Using those methods, they inferred that T. rex held its spine horizontally, which means the tail shot straight back rather than dragging as it was depicted prior to the ’70s.
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